The effervescent Tom Hart Dyke is well known across the globe for his absolute passion for plants. His intrepid plant hunting for rare orchids in the Columbian jungle led to a nine-month kidnap ordeal, a terrifying experience that unexpectedly had a silver lining as it actually led to the creation of The World Garden at his family home, Lullingstone Castle in Eynsford. Tom’s way of dealing with the terrifying situation, when he and his friend Paul Winder were told it would be their last day on earth, was to take out his diary and draw up plans for his dream garden, one that would contain plants from around the world, in their respective continents of origin. ‘I wanted this plant-filled extravaganza of a worldly garden to pay homage to the amazing achievements of plant hunters, especially those of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, who brought back the plants and flowers we now cherish, take for granted and grow in the UK. On average, eighty percent of those aren't from the UK at all,’ he explains.

Great British Life: Dahlias, Mexico's national flower will be adding colour to the garden (c) Leigh ClappDahlias, Mexico's national flower will be adding colour to the garden (c) Leigh Clapp

Miraculously, the kidnappers freed the men and, on returning home, Tom was able to establish the garden that had first germinated in his mind, establishing them in 2005. The World Garden’s reputation and abundant plants have grown and today 10,000 return visitors enjoy a place to learn and discover where plants, both known and rare specimens, come from - and with the ebullient Tom's presence a highlight of any visit. The two-acre site, within a Tudor and Victorian walled area, consists of the World Garden laid out as a miniature map of the globe, with plants positioned in their native land masses. Meanwhile the Hot & Spiky cactus house, temperate house Cloud Garden, Islamic Bulb House and Orchid House, along with a small nursery sales area, cover the second acre.

Great British Life: Fleshy succulents combine with the cacti (c) Leigh ClappFleshy succulents combine with the cacti (c) Leigh Clapp

With over 6,000 types of plants, there's an array of botanical wonders to discover here, such as the Wollemi pine, the oldest tree in the world, beautiful orchids, plus flowers galore, including sunflowers and the dahlia ‘Lullingstone Castle’. The focus for September’s Mexican Celebration Weekend 'Cactus at the Castle', though, is, as its name suggests, firmly on cacti and succulents. ‘I love the sheer diversity of cacti – from the fluorescent, perfumed Echinopsis flowers, which only last 24 hours, to the ‘Teddy Bear Cactus’ with its lethal spines! From the rounded, golden spikes of the Mexican Barrel Cactus to the columnar and furry ‘Tail of the Fox’ from the Andes of South America, there's something for everyone to enjoy, enthuses Tom. 'Above all, though, I just love visitors’ reactions as they turn the corner into our 'Hot & Spiky' cactus house and their faces light up upon seeing such a wonderfully biodiverse collection,’ Tom enthuses.

Great British Life: The wire-sculpture boab tree (c) Leigh ClappThe wire-sculpture boab tree (c) Leigh Clapp

Over the the two days of the event visitors will be able to browse and buy from over 20 leading nurseries and growers, some from within the county, and on the Saturday there'll be a Mesemb Study Group Show, with displays of some of the finest mesembs - succulents commonly known as living stones - plus a talk from a specialist speaker.

Great British Life: A vista of The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle (c) Leigh ClappA vista of The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle (c) Leigh Clapp (Image: Lullingstone Castle)

Sunday will bring a new Lullingstone Open Show competition, with entrants exhibiting a vast array of cacti and succulents, as well as further talks from prominent guest speakers. Not to be missed will be the opening of The Speedboat Cactus House, featuring a James-Bond looking speedboat and Caribbean-style aluminium boat each planted with cacti and succulents. Other highlight areas will include the Mexican section with its salvias, penstemons, dahlias and helianthus, and banks of Michaelmas daisies in the United States area. Time your visit to include a tour with Tom around the garden - his enthusiasm is sure to rub off and make your day!

To know

The World Garden at Lullingstone Castle, Eynsfordys

Mexican Celebration Weekend – ‘Cactus at the Castle’, September 16 & 17

Adm: £12.50, chd free

Check website for tour times with Tom

Great British Life: Succulents are drought tolerant and easy to propagate (c) Leigh ClappSucculents are drought tolerant and easy to propagate (c) Leigh Clapp

The lowdown on cacti

• Cacti originate from the deserts of North and South America, with Mexico having the greatest number and variety of species

• Succulents come from desert and semi-desert regions, especially Mexico and South Africa

• Cacti have needle-like spines and their fleshy stems hold water

• Succulents store water and nutrients in their fleshy leaves

• Cacti are considered succulents, due to their drought-tolerant nature

• Most cacti and succulents are grown inside as house plants, some grow outside

• Use free-draining gritty compost

• Most need full sun and good ventilation

• Watering is key – too much will stunt growth, not enough causes plants to shrivel

Great British Life: Aeonium are decorative in a drought-tolerant garden bed or containers (c) Leigh ClappAeonium are decorative in a drought-tolerant garden bed or containers (c) Leigh Clapp

Tom’s top tips

• The key mistake is over-watering. Let compost completely dry out between waterings - use tepid rainwater if possible as tap water's minerals can cause deposits on the leaves

• And for cacti, from November to March, no watering whatsoever

• Don’t water from above, sit potted plant in a saucer of water and remove the saucer when the compost is wet

• I feed my cacti and succulents once a month from April to September with a low nitrogen feed

• A well-drained compost with 50/50 sharp sand and multi-purpose compost is best

• A bright place in the house is important but not right up against the window, which may scorch your plant

• Easiest cacti: Mexican Cacti such as Mammillaria bocasana and Mammillaria hahniana with gorgeous circular rosettes of bright pink flowers are excellent cacti for beginners. Also, Echinopsis Schick hybrids originally from South America are superb plants for beginners and are all blessed with huge richly fragrant flowers in an array of dazzling colours

• Easiest succulents - delightful aeoniums blessed with an array of fleshy coloured leaves are my absolute easy to cultivate favourites. Sedums and Sempervivums ('Houseleeks') are also tolerant of some neglect and come in a staggering range of leaf and flower colour with something for everyone's botanical taste!!